Life in a simulation.

Last week, I invited you to consider if you are living in a simulation.  I finished the post by asking:

If you were living in a simulation, would you live your life differently?

For me, that is a tough question to answer.

My first reaction is that a simulated life would increase risk taking. There is a lot of research on how psychological distance (including hypotheticality) decreases the emotional intensity of events (real or anticipated). Consequently, it might be easier to cope with the negative consequences of risk taking because the world is “made up.”

Living in a simulation could also lead to more pleasure-seeking because of a lack of meaning. What use is it to try to make the world a better place when there are thousands of other nearly equivalent worlds that are not affected by your behavior.

Would anxiety go down and depression go up?

In any case, one conclusion that I came to was that changes to behavior should be accompanied by an important principle: Do no harm. Simple reasoning. Although the entities in a simulated world are computer programs, those computer programs still feel pain. The computer programs (i.e., other people) don’t know they are computer programs, so they don’t benefit from knowing that they are living in a simulation.

Heady stuff. I think I am going to make some nachos.